Juan Manuel de Rosas
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0069
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0069
Governor Juan Manuel de Rosas is one of the most controversial figures of Argentine history. A dominant figure while he ruled (1829–1832, 1835–1852), debates about his life and legacy continued to play an important role in the cultural, academic, and political spheres of Argentina after his death and do so up to the early 21st century. Rosas was born into a well-to do family in 1793 in the province of Buenos Aires. He spent much of his upbringing in the countryside learning the business of the growing cattle industry, as well as the ways of gauchos and Indians. By the 1820s, he had earned renown as a rancher and militia commander and became more involved in politics. He eventually associated himself with the Federalist Party, which promoted provincial rights and more traditional social structures against the “Unitarians,” who wanted a more centralized government and a liberalized society, similar to the republics emerging in Europe and North America. Continuing strife between Federalists and Unitarians provoked repeated civil wars. One of those conflicts led to Rosas being named governor of Buenos Aires, where he served from 1829 to 1832, then again from 1835 to 1852. During this time, Rosas also served as the leader of the Argentine Confederation, which gave him authority over foreign relations. In the name of restoring order and stability, and granted extraordinary powers to rule by the Buenos Aires legislature, Rosas put down any opposition to his rule, at times quite brutally. Rosas resisted pressure to create a national constitution, insisting that Argentina was not ready for such an organization. Under his rule, thousands of Argentines fled the country, sometimes of their own accord, but other times because of fear for their lives. Indeed, executions and assassinations did take place, especially during times of civil unrest and rebel activity. From exile, many of these dissidents eviscerated Rosas in newspapers, literature, and political commentaries, and, when possible, they fomented armed uprisings and foreign interventions against the Rosas regime. Foreign powers, especially France, pressured Rosas on issues of free trade and treaty rights, pressure which led to chronic conflicts with France and periodic clashes with England. In the early 1850s, Rosas’ allies from the interior began to turn against him, culminating in his defeat in 1852 by a joint army from the Argentine interior, supplemented by Brazilian troops. Upon his defeat, Rosas immediately boarded a British warship and went into exile in England for the last twenty-five years of his life. His role and significance in Argentine history are continuously debated by those who see him as a brutal throwback to Spanish colonialism and a precursor to future political violence, and those who see him as a great defender of Argentine sovereignty, culture, and national identity.
The historiography of Rosas is extensive (see the bibliography Chiappini 1973). Useful historiographical overviews can be found in Etchepareborda 1970 and Clementi 1970 as well as in Shumway 2004. Pro-Rosas material was published contemporarily by friends of the regime (see Analysis of Rosas by His Contemporaries). Intellectuals exiled during his rule produced vitriolic anti-Rosas literature, and much of that negative perspective became integrated into national histories after Rosas fell from power in 1852. This line of thought is associated with Bartolomé Mitre, first president of the unified republic (1862) and a prolific historian, who saw the history of Rosas as a cautionary tale for the country (see Analysis of Rosas by His Contemporaries). This approach later came to be known as the “liberal” interpretation, or more cynically, the “official history” of Argentina. The multivolume history Saldías 1911 (cited under Political History) challenged the liberal view of Rosas in the 1890s, portraying Rosas in a more positive light. This work signaled a more balanced approach that became a characteristic of the “La Nueva Escuela” (the new school), of the early to mid-20th century, which included writers such as Ernesto Quesada, Emilio Ravignani, and Antonio Dellepiane, a trend continued later by Ricardo Levene and Enrique Barba, who may have had their biases for or against Rosas (frequently against), but who believed in a more rigorous historical method not overtly driven by ideology. Beginning the 1920s and 1930s, nationalist writers, soon to be known as “Revisionists” for their opposition to “official history,” published more and more works that exalted Rosas as a great hero of the nation who defended its sovereignty against foreign powers and who represented the true and authentic Argentina (see Kroeber 1964). In 1938, the Juan Manuel de Rosas Institute of Historical Studies was founded and began publishing pro-Rosas material. These nationalist “Revisionists” were frequently less rigorous in their historical method and thus tended to produce one-sided panegyrics. These trends—the anti-Rosas, new school, and Revisionist—continue in one form or another in the 21st century. Rosas and his legacy are still hotly debated, partly because different groups, such as conservative nationalists, use historical interpretations of Rosas to highlight their take on current issues in Argentina (see Devoto and Pagano 2004). Many historians, including professional academics, have taken it upon themselves to challenge the Revisionists, not only for their frequent right-wing stances, but for the lack of rigor and method in their historical scholarship (see Halperín Donghi 2005). Despite their opposition to what they see as Revisionist excesses, many academic historians are producing scholarship that presents a more complex and fuller picture of Rosas, and by extension, of the role of caudillos (strongmen) in Argentine history (Goldman and Salvatore 1998).
Chiappini, Julio O. Bibliografía sobre Rosas. Rosario, Argentina: Universidad Católica Argentina, 1973.
A fairly comprehensive bibliography of scholarship relating to Rosas as of the early 1970s.
Clementi, Hebe. Rosas en la historia nacional. Buenos Aires, Argentina: La Pléyada, 1970.
A balanced look at the historiography on Rosas, focusing on the two major trends and how the various authors fit in, including the major works of each and their key points. Approach is fairly balanced, letting the authors’ bias speak.
Devoto, Fernando, and Nora Pagano, eds. La historiografía académica y la historiografía militante en Argentina y Uruguay. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Editorial Biblos, 2004.
The chapters by Julio Stortini (on the Rosas Institute) and Fernando Devoto (on the left in the historiography) are helpful in explaining in detail the historiographical developments of the mid-20th century, much of which reflects on the treatment of Rosas.
Etchepareborda, Roberto. Rosas: Controvertida historiografía. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Pleamar, 1970.
Etchepareborda examines the major historiographical debates about Rosas and brings various sources to bear on them. The author calls for a more mature approach to history, which in this case focuses on understanding Rosas as a man of his time.
Goldman, Noemí, and Ricardo Salvatore, eds. Caudillismos rioplatenses: Nuevas miradas a un viejo problema. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Eudeba, 1998.
An indispensable collection of academic scholarship that revises traditional views of caudillos in general and of Rosas in particular. The myth of an “institutional vacuum” is challenged, as is the idea that caudillos impeded national organization. Caudillismo was more of a stable system than previously thought. Introduction lays out traditional historiography on caudillos.
Halperín Donghi, Tulio. El revisionismo histórico Argentino como visión decadentista de la historia nacional. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2005.
Three previously published essays on the Revisionist movement and on Rosas historiography by perhaps the best-known historian of his generation; Halperin shows how Revisionism is able to adjust itself to changing circumstances (and how Revisionism more and more abandoned historical method in favor of a “construction of allegories”). The third essay looks at the new directions in Rosas scholarship represented in Myers 1995 (cited under Historiography since the Rosas Repatriation in 1989).
Kroeber, Clifton B. Rosas y la revisión de la historia Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Fondo Editor Argentino, 1964.
A good historiographical analysis of the Revisionists, dividing them into two groups: those writings from the 1880s and those from the 1920s.
Shumway, Jeffrey M. “Juan Manuel de Rosas: Authoritarian Caudillo and Primitive Populist.” History Compass 2.1 (2004).
A brief overview of Rosista historiography, and how Rosas sought to cultivate support among the marginalized classes by respecting Afro-Argentine and gaucho traditions, and negotiating with Indians, although threats of force were always implicit for those who did not cooperate. Rosas’ carrot-and-stick approach has led some to call him a “primitive populist.” Available online for purchase or by subscription.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500-1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521-1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in Nineteenth-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- São Paulo
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas